You might be surprised to find out how far east the Wild West actually began.
Annie Oakley was born in Darke County, Ohio. You can learn more about the legendary sharp shooter at The National Annie Oakley Center at the Garst Museum, in Greenville, Ohio.
Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, Illinois, in a lovely Victorian house on a quiet suburban street that doesn’t hint at the adventurous future (other than the large picture of Earp, to make sure you know you’re in the right place). He grew up in Iowa, which is where his youngest brother Morgan was born. Older brother, Virgil, was born in Kentucky. Like many in the 1800s, the Earp family just kept moving west. Wyatt Earp first became a lawman in Kansas—and would later offer advice about recreating the Wild West to another Iowan, John Wayne.
Wild Bill Hickok was born in Mendota, Illinois. There is a statue of him outside the Mendota historical museum. (A delightful museum that is a good reason to stop in Mendota.)
Buffalo Bill was born in Le Claire, Iowa, where you can drive down Cody Road to the Buffalo Bill Museum. The bar that lays claim to being a favorite hangout, Glur’s Tavern, is in Columbus, Nebraska. (And you can still dine at Glur’s. Pretty good burgers.)
Calamity Jane was born and raised in Missouri, a pretty wild place in the early 1800s.
Jesse James was also born and raised in Missouri, and died there, as well. (The last place James lived is just out the back door of the outstanding Patee House Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.)
Another notorious outlaw, Harvey Alexander Logan, better known as Kid Curry, was born in Iowa. Curry was said to be wildest member of The Wild Bunch.
Zane Grey, the writer who created the Western literary genre was from Ohio—near Zanesville, which was named for Grey’s grandfather, explorer Ebenezer Zane. (If you want more on Grey, he is remembered in a section of the National Road & Zane Grey Museum in Norwich, Ohio.)
Missouri (St. Joseph) is where the Pony Express originated. (Another great museum.)
Iconic Western towns such as Wichita and Dodge City are in Kansas.
Just to say that its worth remembering that much of the history of the Wild West is, in fact, the history of the Middle West.
Of course, it’s also worth remembering that the speed with which the Midwest grew meant that you had to keep moving if you wanted to stay wild.
(Above photo was taken at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Le Claire, IA.)